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Ora clearly has designs on being a ‘Designer Thai’ in a back street north of Oxford Circus. Much effort has been spent on creating the dark interior, an attempt at a sultry look that apes other new-wave Asian restaurants (Busaba Eathai and Hakkasan come to mind). But look closely and it’s not quite so convincing as these pioneers.
On arrival, we waited in the empty lobby and bar area for several minutes with no greeter or other staff around. So we moved through to the dining room, which was seeing a brisker trade. Service throughout was well-meaning and smiling, just not at all practised or smooth.
At first glance, the menu reads like the usual Thai Top Fifty. But the dish presentation is modern and stylish, possibly helped along by the chef’s background at Busaba Eathai, and the manager’s experience at Mango Tree and Awana.
The most surprising dish was the massaman curry. Most versions of this ‘Muslim curry’ in the south of Thailand are dense, peanut-rich curries with small pieces of the potato and beef jumbled up like an Irish stew. Here, the potato was cut into thin layers and stacked into a tower; a large and tidy chunk of beef was served alongside, with the sauce garnish added to the plate in the Western way. It was the best dish, imaginatively presented.
Least impressive was the vegetarian pad Thai, because the noodles were overcooked and sticky, and the breadth of flavours was lacking despite the light use of tamarind as a souring agent.
Som tum was a decent version, the zingy salad made with plenty of grated green papaya – no carrot or cabbage substitution here. The pleasing array of garnishes, such as red chicory, were reminiscent of good Thai cooking, albeit the flavours of this salad were quite muted.
Overall though, our meal at Ora was a disappointment. Portions were small, prices on the high side (£8.75 for that side-dish-sized vegetarian pad Thai), service a bit fumbling. For us, it just lacked the essential wanna-go-back factor.
6 Little Portland Street
|Transport:||Tube: Oxford Circus tube|
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